Google defends privacy record

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Google's founders have defended the search engine's record over data privacy after it was discovered the organisation had accidentally collected personal information from unsecured Wi-Fi networks.

Eric Schmidt, Google's chief executive, told the audience at the annual Zeitgeist conference that the incident, which saw the firm acquire the data through the mapping process of the Street View service, would not significantly damage the company's reputation.

Schmidt's statement was echoed by Google co-founder Larry Page who explained that the firm could not use the data in any way. Page went on to discuss the company's policy towards user privacy.

"It is clear life has changed. The internet has affected people's lives in many new ways and we don't know where this is headed," he commented.

"Social networking has created a ton of data that has been made public and semi-public that didn't use to be. This is a very important issue for society that is going to be debated for the next 50 years."

The comments by Page and Schmidt came hours after the UK Information Commissioner's Office ordered Google to destroy data scraped from network connections during the Street View project. The issue, which saw fragments of information pulled from unsecured wireless points, arose after an obsolete piece of code found its way into the collection process.

An entry on the official Google blog apologised for the mistake, stating:

"The project leaders did not want, and had no intention of using, payload data."